What is a Beautiful Landscape?
“A beautiful landscape” can mean many different things to different people.For some, the only landscapes that will qualify require hundreds of thousands of dollars in elaborate construction.For others, the most beautiful landscape is the one nature created – with no sign of human intervention.For most, the concept is somewhere in between.
If you are building a landscape for your home – or for any building, the best choice is something that will not conflict with the design of the structure or that of the general surrounding area.A lake of emerald green grass surrounding an adobe styled house or pouring down the side of a scrub-textured chaparral creates visual discord.A wild English garden surrounding a formal building looses its charm and merely appears unkempt.A formal geometrical garden would look absurd surrounding a log cabin.This does not mean you can’t have a garden styled to your taste even if the house style you bought isn’t.It does mean that to make both beautiful, some thought has to go into making idea, taste and reality mesh.
You can create illusion of landscape styles even if you don’t have enough space or money to re-create you ideal.A “Beverly Hills” mansion landscape feel can be designed on a shoestring budget by creating miniature areas as focal points.
Do-it-yourself folks can save a lot of money.But since most people don’t have the knowledge or experience of professionals, it’s not a bad idea to spend considerable time doing research, or call in consultants for advice before diving into landscaping projects.Research and creative time is spent by the best professional landscape designers and architects.It does account for much of their billable time.Ideas do not pop into a creative’s head and drop onto the paper instantaneously.Also make sure you hire the right help for the right kind of expertise you need.
With the ‘globalizing’ of communications, generic plans have become popular and practical.Adapting a small number of basic designs to different layouts and plant environmental needs has created a whole industry that gives what appears to be a custom design at a less expensive price.If you are creating your own design, you need to allow yourself that time for thinking and researching.Then comes the adaptation of those ideas to the page format so you can delegate whatever you need to or work on the plan over time without forgetting important aspects.
Another point to consider about beauty, is that not everyone thinks the same plants are beautiful.I find some folks like a neat, contained plant to be beautiful whereas someone else finds the same look too stodgy and prefers a natural sprawl or wilder look.Colors are very personal.We probably start associating our feelings with different colors as early as in our pre-verbal childhood.Maybe we physically see colors differently depending on how our organic eyes and brains process the light waves.Who knows why we often prefer one color over another.And I don’t suppose it matters.But some people feel quite strongly in favor or against various flower or leaf colors.
Although this article was written with Southern California in mind, the concepts are universal and can help people design landscapes in just about any garden anywhere.
One of the most powerful natural decorative effects in a landscape design is the placement of stone, rocks and boulders. Rock varies as you travel through Southern California. Even locally you can see the wide mixture of stone that has been pushed to the surface by the contorting jolts of earth movements in our hills and mountains. There are sandstone rocks in reds, beiges, yellows and whites as well as multicolored granites. You can find wind and water rounded rocks and boulders and sharp-edged splintered rocks. Some areas boast iron in the stone formations making them orange and others are laced with copper that turns rock green. Mica and quartz can make stone glitter. There are rocks and boulders that will go with just about any kind of landscape you may want to design on your property.
Rocks are perfect to enhance a Southwest landscape theme, to set off the interesting shapes of a cactus and succulent garden or to offer natural seating in a wild or native landscape design. Add a boulder to highlight an ornamental grass garden or use scatterings of rocks to trace out a dry riverbed. Single stones can be the focus of an Asian or Zen garden or they can be carefully placed to be used as furniture or to set off a shapely tree. Design with rocks and boulders into almost any theme to add accents and character. They can also be used to create spacial effects and perspective illusions.
You can buy rocks and boulders, priced by the pound or you can collect your own from your own property or from open, undeveloped land or dry rivers. Do not take rocks or stones from parks or other California public areas: it is against the law. If your yard has an unblocked view of surrounding land, you might want to choose the same kind of rocks that will blend with your local, natural stone. Using a material that continues outside your boundaries will help your garden to look like it flows beyond your property line
Avoid equally spaced rocks forming a pattern unless you want to create a formal, contemporary or minimalist design. Often landscapers with no design sense will line up stones or set them in neat, equidistant spaces. Nature would never do that and these overly calculated rock settings look silly in anything but an intentionally contrived – and carefully, artistically designed –overall landscape design.
Rock and stone can be integrated in walls and into the surface of concrete. Pebble finishes can be used for textural effects and designs can be drawn into different areas of colored stone. Big boulders make powerful statements. They can guard an entry or tower over a natural-looking dry river bed, stream or pond. Rocks are heavy so expect to need power equipment to move them unless you stick to sizes less than 18 x 18x 18 inches. Medium rocks can be moved with a crow bar or lifted with the help of several strong backs. Be very careful when moving rocks. They are very dense and weigh more than they appear. Always lift with your legs and don’t try to move something that could cause injury.
Look around at some examples of the landscape design with stone and rocks by checking out garden magazines or the Internet. Visit parks and public gardens. Do you want to create your own stand of jutting rocks? Do you like the squat, rounded rock forms that pile into mounds? Are stacked walls or flat flagstone areas more to your taste? Decide on the kind of stone, rock or boulder you want and blend it into your own garden. Build with rocks and stone that will complement your garden style, the area you are living and even the design of your house.
Adding stone, rock and boulders not only creates interest in the design, but it can help you build areas of drainage and permeable paving that will help with excess rain run-off during the winter wet season. Gravel offers water-saving, non-growing surfaces for practical use, play or design. Use it to fill in hard-to-plant areas so they look great in hot or cold weather and smother invading weeds in spring. Stone is a natural product that can be used to advantage in your landscape design. It can even function as a top-dressing or a layer of mulch. Just remember that dark colors absorb heat so they can get hot in summer sun for delicate feet and plant life.
Natural rock comes in all sizes, shapes and a surprisingly wide range of colors. Use it in your garden for ease of care and beauty. It can become one of your most important and stable design elements.
Because of their showy, scented flowers, lilacs are popular shrubs to grow in the landscape. In cold climates these shrubs can grow to the size of a small tree. They usually grow with multiple stems in a form that looks like a large shrub. Some lilacs can grow on a single thick stem that makes them look more like a tree. Lilacs (Syringa) have been a favorite for decades and are ideal for a romantic, woodland, English or old-fashioned style garden or can be integrated into many other beautiful garden themes. Many varieties offer good cut flowers that will provide a decorative indoor bouquet that will fill your home with a delightful perfume.
The most frequently grown lilac is the Syringa vulgaris. This lilac comes in purples, blues and whites. There is a group of plants developed especially for warmer climates known as the Descanso hybrids. These come in an assortment of colors including pink. Most tend to grow to only about six feet tall. These are more likely to bloom well in the south and the west of the country despite the lack of cold winter temperatures.
Grow lilacs for beauty where they can soften angles by filling corners with soft foliage. Use a lilac for a focal point or to drape over fences and arbors. The lilac will also make a fresh green backdrop in the back of a large flower border. Plan on the lilac losing leaves in the winter showing the branch framework until it leafs out in the early spring. The flowering period is relatively short but leaves form a good fill with handsome foliage. Plant them neat seating areas or by windows and entryways where the fragrance of flowering lilacs can be appreciated.
Give lilacs a rich soil and good drainage. They need full sun and room to grow. Lilacs don’t suffer from a lot of diseases and pests and are best trimmed to control size and shape. Easy to cultivate, grow lilacs for their beauty and scent, they are a welcome addition for most any garden.
Practicalities all too often are hidden away in the landscape because they are unattractive. Ordinary potting sheds, storage structures and even chicken coups are usually considered eyesores. But what if these buildings could improve the looks of your garden? If you think of these structures as an opportunity to create a focal point, you can transform the ugly into something wonderful. Here are some examples of creative ideas that you can use to inspire interesting designs in your own garden.
Here’s one example of how a potting shed can become the basis to a whole landscape design. This potting shed is a fully functional little house that will be the central design element in the overall garden picture. This is a cottage landscape design that will have window boxes overflowing with flowers, ornamental shutters, and colorful gardens. In the back is a double door that allows even a heavy wheelbarrow to enter the shed.
Chickens are becoming popular additions to landscapes in these days of self-sufficiency, but they don’t have to look like nailed boards and chicken wire bashed together to keep your chickens safe. Instead you can make the materials into statements in the garden. A small chicken coup can built like little chicken hotel. It can be small, attractive and even display character with a decorative coat of paint and a little added décor. Or you can really be creative as you can see in this Old West shed. You can even add a “Marshall’s Office” or “Country Store” sign.
Making a structure into a stylized design can underscore a theme garden, like a Japanese garden with a pagoda-like shed, or a building with a palm-thatched roof to appear tropical. Color can be added to create color schemesto repeat or contrast with flower colors. You can even sculpt a shed to blend into the landscape as a huge boulder with a hollow interior.
These are examples that can help you use your imagination when it comes to designing practical sheds, storage, work spaces, utility areas or chicken coups into your landscape. These structures don’t need to be eye-sores. Convert practical essentials into assets in your garden. Dress them up to make your landscape decorative and exciting.
Walkways are places where people expect to be able to pass safely. They can offer utilitarian passage or they can take part of the landscape design offering space definition or a linear element. If you put a little thought into building your walkway right with decorative pavers and lighting so it is designed to be both useful and aesthetic, you can have the best of both worlds.
There are many different shapes and designs to pavers you can use in an outdoor passageway. Pavers can be set together to form all kinds of designs and even pictures. Using assembled cast block, natural stone or brick allows space for rain or irrigation water to filter between the pavers creating permeable paving. Permeable paving allows water to seep into the ground naturally rather than washing off and causing erosion. Placing pavers close together can form a surface safe even for high heeled shoes.
The space between the stone, block or brick can be filled with cement, sand, decomposed granite, gravel, low ground-cover plants or even non-tradtonal materials like ceramic beads, tumbled glass or any non-toxic fill that can withstand outdoor weather.
Then you can add lighting that not only allows for safe footing in the dark but can make your passageway into a piece of art. Lights can be embedded between or along the edges of the pavering material. You can have your lights hardwired or use low voltage, solar lights or even LEDs. Simple do-it-yourself lights can be bought and placed along the walkway. You can line a path or embed a strip of LED light-rope or set up interesting fixtures all along your walk.
There is no limit to the inventive effects you can use when desgning your walkway with pavers and lighting. Put your imagination to work. Then create a passageway that adds both beauty and practicality to your landscape.
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